Like it or not, by this time in December the holiday season is in full force. This is a time for giving, and of goodwill and reflection about the year that soon will come to a close. It is also a time for parties, family functions, presents, wrapping paper and everything else that goes with all that.
It’s really important through all this chaos, however, to make sure to spend at least some time thinking about one more important thing during this season of giving.
It’s important to care for yourself while busy doing everything for everyone else, so Backcountry Journeys has decided to put together a list to concentrate on what we want.
The following is our 2018 Holiday Wish List, highlighting the ten critters we most want to photograph this coming year! So, here it goes, starting at ten and working towards the coveted number one spot.
Hang on to your hats, folks!
The number ten spot goes to the glorious and enormous Humpback Whale. Humpbacks are known for their song, which travels across oceans for great distances. Measuring from 48 to 62.5 feet long, and weighing up to 40 tons, these big boys are the size of a full-sized bus! That kind of girth should make them easy to see when they breach the water, which they do regularly with a tremendous splash! Fantastic photographic fodder, don’t you agree? As luck has it, Backcountry Journeys has a photo tour to Hawaii that is timed so that we’re there just in time for the whales as they migrate annually from summer feeding grounds near the poles. While on this tour, we’ll spend time on a privately chartered boat searching the northern Kohala coast for number ten on the wildlife list.
We’ll leave the islands and travel to the inland United States and the Rocky Mountains to find number nine on the list; Moose. Catching a bull as it bellows loudly in an attempt to attract a mate during the autumn rut is a special way to photograph a moose. Backcountry Journeys offers tours to two different rocky mountain locations, Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks that can get you just that!
Number eight brings us the Orca, otherwise known as ‘the Killer Whale.’ Their large black and white bodies make them unmistakable. Orcas are actually the largest of the dolphins, and are one of the world’s most powerful predators. A symbol of marine terror. They are carnivores and hunt seal, sea lion, and even other whales. All of these marine animals are on display in the cold, icy waters of Kenai Fjords, Alaska.
Landing in the number seven spot is the Scarlet Macaw, which is the largest parrot in the world. This bird spends its time living in the canopy of seaside jungles in places like the Osa Peninsula, in Costa Rica. These birds mate for life and spend a great deal of their time cleaning each other and hunting for nuts, leaves and berries. Their bright red, blue and yellow plumage makes them a colorful and an especially aesthetically pleasing photographic subject. If you can catch them, that is!
Yellowstone National Park is the place to find our critter in the number six slot. In fact, Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where Bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. Bison once covered the Great Plains and roamed a good portion of North America. During the 19th century, settlers killed roughly 50 million for food, sport, and even to simply deprive Native Americans. The once enormous herds were reduced to only a few hundred animals. Bison are large, weighing in at over a ton, and standing between five and six-and-a-half feet tall. In spite of this mass they can be fast, running upwards of 40 miles an hour if they need to. An image of a bison in the Wyoming snow field, with ice frozen to its beard is a legendary wildlife photography ‘must-have.’
Number five is the Grizzly Bear. While these giant beasts are typically solitary animals, dramatic gatherings of grizzly do take place, and can be witnessed at places such as Katmai and Lake Clark National Parks in Alaska. At Katmai the bears congregate at Brooks Falls attempting to catch salmon leaping out of the river. Most of the amazing photographs of a grizzly catching a salmon in its mouth that you’ve seen (like this one above) were shot at Brooks Falls. The image of a lifetime can indeed be made right here.
Coming in at number four is a creature that doesn’t move all that fast, but is still not easy to catch. The sloth live in tropical forests of Central and South America, places like Costa Rica, where they occupy the high canopy of trees, where they like to sleep upwards of 20 hours a day. They are so sluggish that algae can grow on their fur. While you might think these dudes are monkey-like, they are actually related to armadillos and anteaters.
Have you ever witnessed a Bald Eagle, number three on the list, as it soars across a deep azure Alaskan sky, snatch a fish directly out of the talons of an osprey in mid-air? This sort of action makes for an incredible image to add to your wildlife collection. There may not be a more stunning wildlife image, actually, and Alaska is just the place to achieve one!
Polar bears are simply one of the most iconic and well-loved species in the world, and as such they register at number two on our Christmas list. Polar Bears are the only bear species considered to be a marine mammal as they spend the majority of their lives on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, dependant on the ocean for their food and habitat. Backcountry Journeys offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the isolated Inupiaq Eskimo village of Kaktovik, located way out in the Beaufort Sea in the heart of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is here where scores of these glorious white haired beasts await the ice to freeze which will allow passage to their hunting grounds.
And the number one critter on our 2018 Holiday List is…
A 5 Way tie!!
Coming in at number one for us is a tie between a handful of incredible beasts that we are looking forward to photographing in 2019, on our soon-to-be-announced Botswana Wildlife Safari Tour! These number one ranked critters are Elephants, Rhinos, Cheetahs, Leopards and Lions. As well as a plethora of others.
Botswana is located in southern Africa between Namibia, Zimbabwe, and is home to some of the more unimaginable vastness and wildlife the world has to offer. We are thrilled to be headed to Africa in 2019, and will have details about the tour as soon as possible! Keep tabs on backcountryjourneys.com and Backcountry Journeys Tribe, on Facebook, for details.
So there you have it!
But, this is our list. At the beginning of this piece we discussed taking time to think about what you want. And we’d love for you to give us your list! Feel free to leave your favorite animals to photograph, or which you’re most interesting in capturing, in the comments section below.
Happy Holidays to you and yours from Backcountry Journeys!
Kenton Krueger grew up and spent the first 33 years of his life in the corn country of Omaha, Nebraska. After studying aviation at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Aviation Institute, he “conned” his way into the newsroom at the award-winning Omaha World-Herald where for 3+ years he wrote and photographed news articles on a variety of topics such as community events, travel and even mixed martial arts for the sports department. Yet something was missing. While on backpacking trips to Grand Teton and Grand Canyon National Parks in the mid-2000’s he was quick to realize that the wild lands of the western United States stoked a fire in his heart like nothing else could. This realization led to relocation to Flagstaff, Arizona, and he hasn’t looked back. He has spent the past several years guiding guiding backpackers, hikers and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks as well as in the Grand Staircase Escalante in southern Utah. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, newspaper photographer and writer. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.